Sen. John McCain and Sen. Charles Schumer, the two leaders of the Senate Gang of Eight immigration negotiators, cast House Republicans’ stubborn refusal to take up the Senate-passed bill in a positive light Thursday.
Instead of cajoling them to take up the upper chamber’s comprehensive bill, McCain, R-Ariz., and Schumer, D-N.Y., said they were “encouraged” by House Republicans’ willingness to consider immigration reform legislation at all – even it they take a more piecemeal approach by passing border security measures before tackling other parts of the nation’s immigration laws.
Speaking after an hour-long meeting with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House, McCain said the step-by-step approach from House Republicans still could open the door to cooperation with the Senate.
“We can work with them on different pieces of legislation,” McCain said. “We want legislation that we can go to conference on.”
The White House also appeared to be adjusting its stance on immigration reform. Earlier in the week, Obama started a campaign to pressure House Republicans to take up a comprehensive Senate bill, releasing a White House report touting the economic benefits of passing the Senate version of the bill and meeting with members of the Hispanic Caucus Wednesday.
House Republicans emerging from a lengthy meeting with their GOP colleagues Wednesday evening told the Washington Examiner they weren’t really concerned about the president’s pressure campaign — with several GOP lawmakers saying they didn’t even know about it.
By Thursday, however, White House spokesman Jay Carney was congratulating Republicans for recognizing that “inaction is not an option” and said the administration is hopeful that “in the end Congress will act on the will of the business community, on the will of labor leaders, of faith leaders, of law enforcement leaders, of Republican and Democratic leaders across the country and get this important piece of business done.”
Even though members of the Hispanic Caucus said Wednesday that Obama told them he was planning to travel to battleground states to try to pressure House Republicans to pass a comprehensive bill, Carney declined to confirm those reports Thursday.
Instead, he said Obama, as president, has an important role to play in trying to get immigration reform passed but he was also well aware of the political sensitivities involved in the issue and would do what he thought was best to promote a path to citizenship and a more comprehensive approach.
Carney told reporters at his briefing Thursday that the White House is working to encourage “House members to acknowledge what others have said is the urgency of the need to act now … that inaction is not an option. We’re going to engage in the ways that we have — mindful of what produces the best outcome.”
When talking to the press after their meeting, McCain and Schumer indicated they planned to travel around the country to promote a comprehensive approach.